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January 27, 2009

Marcos Ambrose

ASHLEY JONES: Welcome to today's NASCAR teleconference. Our guest today is Marcos Ambrose who is joining us from Charlotte, North Carolina. He is the driver of the No. 27, Little Debbie Toyota and, and he will be competing in his first full season of Sprint Cup competition in 2009 for JTG Dougherty Racing.
What is your outlook heading into speed week this year, and your first full season of competition in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series?
MARCOS AMBROSE: We're really familiar to a unique deal for 2009 with the testing ban and everything. There is no track time, and I feel like I'm really a rookie out there at the cup level.
So I'm really just hoping that when I get to Daytona that I get comfortable and confident in the cup car around the track so I'm ready for the race. That's really my focus right now is just to stay calm and let it all come to me as the week progresses.
I feel like I've got a great ride, a great seat, great sponsors. Everything's just perfect, except I don't have quite the seat time for myself to feel like I'm comfortable and confident yet.
So, hopefully, I'll have enough laps at Daytona in practice to get myself ready.

Q. Thank you for being with us today. How do you approach this coming season? This is going to be your first full-time in the Cup series as opposed to previous seasons when you were getting ready for a Nationwide Series season. Like you said, there's no testing. What is your approach for heading into the Daytona 500 this year?
MARCOS AMBROSE: Thanks. I guess when you get to this stage in your career and you get a chance to do a full-time Cup ride you should know what you're doing. So I'm going to go back and rely on my knowledge I've gained over the years about being a professional driver, and getting going as fast as I can at the Cup level.
Obviously, the Cup series is bigger, there are more pressures and more work. The sponsors as well. So I've worked hard in the off-season to think about who I am as a race driver, what I need to do to be better.
At the same time I've looked at how I run my racing life and how I organize myself and structure my personal life around racing to really try to make it as seamless as I can. So I feel like I've done a lot of hard work in the off-season to get ready both physically, mentally, and on the business side. I'm just looking forward to getting started now.
I feel like I'm in a good place and looking forward to getting the season going. Stop talking about what's coming up, and just get stuck into it

Q. First question he, with Daytona not a guarantee as far as you're being in the field for the 500, how are you going to approach speed weeks? And you put emphasis on the Twin 125s and full-day qualifying?
MARCOS AMBROSE: I have good and bad news for you there. The bad news is you're not right, we are locked in, which is the good news for the 500. With some reshuffling of numbers, some teams are going away. We've jumped from 36 in points well inside the cutoff of top 35.
So we're locked in for the first five races. That is a huge benefit to us. JTG Dougherty Racing is their first year at the Cup level.
Part of the reason we associated ourselves with Michael Waltrip and getting them to run our cars and our teams is to be able to get those points. So we're really excited about how the off-season has worked for us, as far as getting points is concerned. We're locked in. We feel like we're on an equal level with everybody else on the field, and to make sure we stay in the top 35 for the whole year.

Q. Does that change your mindset as far as how you attack speed weeks from what would have been had you just needed to erase and qualify to get in?
MARCOS AMBROSE: Yeah, no doubt. I would have probably had no sleep all through the off-season, worried about the Jewels, because it meant so much to get into the 500. So I'll now use the Jewels as a practice to show the other drivers that are out there that I'm racing against that I'm safe around them. That I can push them when the time is right and I can mix it up in the middle of the field without causing any trouble.
So for me, it's about proving myself to the guys around me. On the track, showing that I'm sensible, smart and can draft and be a partner with them out there.
Also, the second part, I'm just going to try to get some confidence and get comfortable riding in a Cup pack at Daytona, because it will be very different to what I'm used to. The Nationwide car runs a different speed and handles differently. So I'm going to have to adjust myself to all of that when I get there.
The first chance will be the Jewel. So really not any pressure at all apart from just trying to show my competitive bit. I'm willing to work with them, and I'm safe out there in the middle of the pack. So when I get ready for the 500, they'll want to work with me, and get myself up to speed and get confident.

Q. I'm at the Super Bowl where Benny Graham is going to be the first Australian to play. You're looking at becoming history making Australian in the Daytona 500. I guess it's a good time to be an Australian in sport in America.
MARCOS AMBROSE: Yeah, I guess it is. Benny Graham has come from AFL, which is our version of football in Australia. He's had a lot of success. I sat down with him around 2004 or' 05 at a function, and he was saying how he was coming over here to have a crack at it. So good luck to him. Hopefully, he'll win the Super Bowl, and I'll win the 500.
But I wouldn't put any bets on that. I think just the experience for me this first year is what it's all about. I just want to settle in, do the right thing and show everybody that I can do it.

Q. No NASCAR or very few NASCAR drivers could have adjusted to many time zone changes like you have in your career. Do you feel that your experience to adjusting to new turf will help you adapt to a new team, and the toughness of the Cup level racing?
MARCOS AMBROSE: I think the first thing to get used to is driving on the wrong side of the car. You know, I've been lucky enough and fortunate enough to be quite versatile. I've been driving open wheel cars, sports cars, left-hand drive, clockwise, you name it, I've done it.
So I feel I can use my experiences in the past to really go anywhere and do anything as far as road racing is concerned. While this oval stuff is very unique and a real challenge to get used to it.
People many people don't understand that before I came to NASCAR, I'd never driven on an oval. Not a dirt track or asphalt track or anything.
My learning curve has been steep. I feel fortunate to be given a chance to get to the Cup level. Considering I've only had three years of NASCAR experience and oval experience all start, it's been a wild ride for me. I'm learning every day. But at the same time I'm at this Cup level, there is nowhere to hide. You have to basically be on your game. I feel like I'm at a place I'm ready to go.
I've got the best of my abilities to put forward. I feel like I'm ready for it. I feel I've learned enough, and I've had enough time to grow into the sport. Now it's time to either prove myself or head home.

Q. You have raced in Nationwide and did some Cup racing last season. Are you giving up your Nationwide ride? Will you be racing that series at all? And what are your long-term goals for this cup season?
MARCOS AMBROSE: JTG Dougherty Racing is a team I drove for in the Nationwide Series. And we pooled that money, Kingsford and Little Debbie, that they had access to, we pooled that together to start this Cup deal. So there basically isn't a Nationwide ride to go back to, because there is no sponsor to run it.
So I feel like you this is a brand-new deal for me, though I've still got a lot of players and sponsors and key personnel that I had in 2008 to really work with to understand who I am, what I'm about and what I'm doing and the challenge that we've got in front of us.
So it's exciting to think that I've got friendships and relationships with the sponsors and the team owners. But really at the Cup level for me this year, my focus is 100% committed on the Cup effort.
There may be the odd Nationwide race here or there, obviously the two road course races in Nationwide we're penciling in to do. But everything else is fully focused on Cup.
Now if we find we need to do more races to make the Cup thing work, I'll look at that at the time. But right now there is no intent to do anything but full Cup racing.
ASHLEY JONES: Thank you so much. Marcos, for participating in today's video teleconference, and as always, media, we appreciate your participation as well.

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